Aquatint Art Definition -  

Aquatint is a kind of an art print. Aquatints are printed on paper from an image etched onto a metal plate using various tools and then dipped in acid. It is an etching process which creates tonal values and is named for the effect it develops as the finished prints look like ink or watercolor washes. ‘Aquatint’ is more about creating an image blindly which makes it a complex process. Jan Van de Velde, a printmaker invented the technique “aquatint” around 1650 in Amsterdam and it was coined by Paul Sandby in England to measure the channel’s capacity to produce the effect of color on the plate. ‘Aquatint’ utilizes an array of materials from spray paint to rosin for creating a tonal range on a plate. 

File:Coloured aquatint by William Daniell after James Kershaw, c. Wellcome V0050501.jpg

Coloured aquatint by William Daniell after James Kershaw, c. 1831; Iconographic Collections

Aquatint Painting Process - 

The etching technique allows a printmaker to create large areas of values (from black to white) on a surface without any requirement to etch line - work or put direct marks on a surface enabling more subtle tonal ranges. After the plate is dusted with finely powdered resin, it is heated until the resin melts and hardens after cooling. Aqua fortis or acid is then applied to the metal plate as it bites the gaps around the resin grains. This allows dark tones to furnish depending upon how deeply the acid has penetrated the plate. Aquatint as a method became popularized in the late 18th century and the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya is considered to be the master of this method. Artists like Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro and Mary Cassatt also experimented with this technique in their works. 

More facts about Aquatint Printing Process - 

This painting process is known as aquatint because the finished prints highly resemble watercolor drawings and also wash drawings. A good aquatint drawing leaves a stunning effect on the surface that no other printing process can duplicate. However, the aquatint painting requires experience to execute it properly. The constant pressure from running the plate can compress and wear down the aquatint causing it to print in a lighter mode. A perfect aquatint can hold up to 30 prints and much more that. But, a great understanding of aquatint process is must to maximize the results of technique and reduce unfavorable outcomes. 


1. Why was Aquatint largely used to create prints? 

- Aquatint process helps produce prints with delightful variations of shading. 

2. Who had invented Aquatint painting? 

- Around 1650, the painter and printmaker Jan Van De Velde IV invented Aquatint painting in Amsterdam. 

3. How was an aquatint made? 

- An Aquatint painting had begun with a copper or zinc plate covered in powdered resin. 

4. Who had added perfection to Aquatint painting process? 

- French printmaker Jean - Baptiste Le Prince discovered using resin in the Aquatint painting process, which further enhanced its quality. 

5. Who were the famous artists who created aquatints? 

- A few famous artists who created aquatints are Goya, Degas, Picasso and Hockney.  

6. When did aquatinting printing become popular? 

- In the late 1700s, Aquatint first became the popular method of making toned print. Even today it is mainly used as a fine art print.